Stormont tax talks 'constructive'
A joint ministerial working group meeting to discuss a reduction in corporation tax in Northern Ireland has been described as "very constructive" and "worthwhile".
Thursday, 15 December 2011
Stormont Ministers met with a delegation from Westminster on Thursday for the talks, which were chaired by Treasury Minister David Gauke.
A work programme was agreed for the coming months to prepare for devolution of corporation tax and examine issues raised during a recent consultation.
The First and Deputy First Ministers welcomed the progress that was made.
A joint statement from Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness read: "We welcome the fact that the group has met and we look forward to working together to reach a position where we have the powers to set out our rate of corporation tax."
Secretary of State Owen Paterson, who has described the meeting as "significant", said "real work on devolution of corporation tax had started."
"The discussion at today's meeting was a most constructive first step," he said.
"We now need to discuss this in real detail before the Government decides whether or not to proceed further."
Business leaders and political representatives have campaigned to see the tax reduced from the current UK rate of 26% to the Republic of Ireland's 12.5%, in the hope that this would boost the economy and help the region's companies compete with their southern competition.
In September, Finance Minister Sammy Wilson indicated that Northern Ireland will have to wait at least four years before seeing a cut in the level of corporation tax.
Speaking after Thursday's meeting Mr Gauke said: "The Northern Ireland Executive has signalled that it wants the power to vary corporation tax rates.
"I welcome the ongoing engagement with the Executive as we seriously examine the implications of devolution, including on costs and the impact on businesses before we can decide whether devolution would be in the interests of both Northern Ireland and the UK as a whole."